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November 17, 2008

WCI meditation garden

Peaceful place created by inmates featured in new book

CRESAPTOWN — The meditation garden at the Western Correctional Institution — the first of its kind in any U.S. prison — and WCI’s master gardening program are featured in a 16-page section of a new book.

Published by the Annapolis-based TKF Foundation, which provided funding for the meditation garden and a large greenhouse at WCI, the book titled “Open Spaces, Sacred Places” devotes an entire chapter to the WCI project. It includes extensive features on Western Region Assistant Commissioner Jon Galley, who was warden of WCI when the meditation garden was created in June 2005, and Frostburg State University biology professor Wayne Yoder, who instructs the master gardening inmate students at WCI.

WCI Administrative Officer Bill Jewell was recently honored by Warden Bobby Shearin for his role in helping create the meditation garden and master gardening program.

“We’re proud of the work of Mr. Galley and Bill Jewell — and the inmates,” said Mark Vernarelli, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. “And we’re most thankful for the volunteer efforts of a professional like Dr. Wayne Yoder, and for TKF, without whose vision this project would never have existed — much less been funded.

“The book is wonderful, and the WCI chapter shows what can be accomplished when dedicated people really do, as the saying goes, think outside the box. In this case, you might say they looked beyond the razor wire for something that had truly made a difference for staff and inmates alike,” said Vernarelli.

Shearin said the meditation garden is shown in the book as “manicured and well-maintained by the inmates.”

“The meditation garden is shown as an oasis for inmates to ponder matters and take their minds off their prison life. We encourage use of the meditation garden as a healthful time-out spot. It’s a sharp contrast to the concrete, brick and razor wire that you normally see at the prison,” said Shearin.

The book was formally released early last month at the Rawlings Conservatory in Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park in a celebration featuring TKF founder Tom Stoner.

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